Do you own a business operating in the state of Washington DC? If so, you may need to acquire licenses and permits to ensure that your company operates in a compliant fashion.
But how do you determine which permits and licenses you need (if any), and where do you acquire them? In this guide to Washington DC business licenses and permits, we’ll answer all the tough questions about this process.
Are There Federal Licenses That My Business Needs?
First off, let’s discuss the matter of federal licenses and permits. There are many business activities that are regulated by various federal agencies, from agriculture to transportation and logistics. We recommend taking a look at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s guide to federal licenses and permits to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.
In addition, most businesses should acquire a federal tax ID number, also known as an EIN (employer identification number). This is essentially a social security number for your business, and it enables you to hire employees, pay business taxes, open business bank accounts, and more. You can acquire an EIN from the IRS for free.
What State-Level Licenses and Permits Apply in Washington DC?
To do business in the District of Columbia, all business entities must apply for and obtain a Basic Business License. This license gives you the privilege of conducting business in the capitol. You can use the BBL Application to get this license. It’s highly recommended that you follow the links on the form for steps 1-3; they’ll walk you through a few items you need to complete before filing the application.
After you’ve completed the first three steps, you’ll need to fill in the rest of the form with the following information:
- The license type you’re applying for
- Your business entity type
- Name of the business owner or the business itself
- Physical address of your business (Whether operated out of your home or a separate building)
- Your billing address (if distinct from physical address)
- Name and contact information of your registered agent (you can serve as your own)
The fees for this application vary based on the type of license you’ll need. You can browse the fees here.
In addition to this basic license, you may need to require permits specific to your industry. These are usually regulated by the Occupational and Professional Licensing Administration. A wide variety of industries are regulated by this administration, including architects, electricians, and more. To learn more and get started with these applications, you can head to the DC Business Portal.
Professional Licenses and Permits
Some occupations are not regulated by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Instead, they are regulated by another department. For example, the Metropolitan Police Department regulates the licenses of security officers. Sometimes, the professional license is all that’s necessary; in other circumstances, the basic business license and the professional license might be required. You can learn more here.
Which Tax Registrations are Required for Washington DC Businesses?
In addition to occupational licenses and permits, there are a number of state-level tax registrations, which are based on the industry you operate in and which business structure your company uses.
All businesses in Washington DC will be subject to a franchise tax. Corporations pay a corporate franchise tax, and the unincorporated franchise tax applies to all other entities.
There are also many industry-specific tax registrations in the district, from professional baseball taxes to street vendor taxes. Thankfully, the District’s tax portal, MyTax DC, serves as a helpful, one-stop resource to paying your taxes quickly and easily. You can also learn more about business taxes with the Business Tax Service Center.
Are There Local Licenses, Permits, or Registrations in Washington DC?
The answer to this question obviously depends on where in Washington DC you’re operating your business, but there are indeed quite a few licenses, permits, and tax registrations required by Washington DC localities.
The state keeps track of all county-level occupational license tax forms on the Secretary of State’s website, including those in Boone, Boyle, Campbell, Daviess, Henderson, Kenton, Jessamine, Scott, and Taylor counties. Check out the list for yourself right here.
There are also some requirements on the city/municipality level. For example, Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Paducah all have business resource websites that explain the applicable permits and licenses required to do business.
If we were to break down the exact rules and regulations regarding permitting in every locality in the state of Washington DC, this article would become excessively lengthy. With that in mind, we’ll simply say that every business owner should check with their local government to determine whether there are licenses, permits, or tax registrations required to operate in compliant fashion.
Can I Hire Someone to Research Licenses and Permits for My Business?
If this process sounds like a bit of a hassle, that’s because it certainly can be. If you would rather hire a reputable business services provider to handle this for you, that is always an option.
Companies like Incfile can research the necessary licenses and permits for your company on the federal, state, county, and municipal levels. They will then send you the applications you need to acquire these permits and licenses, meaning all you need to do is fill them out and mail them in.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for the question of which licenses and permits your business might require to operate in the state of Washington DC. Instead, it’s important that you know how to access the resources to determine which permits your company needs to operate in a compliant fashion.
We hope this article helped you to do just that, and we wish you good fortune in your business future!